I, Frankenstein (2014)

(On Cable TV, November 2014) An intense impression of familiarity is what first emerges from expensive-but-generic action fantasy film I, Frankenstein.  Seemingly built using the same pieces as the Underworld series, Van Helsing and so many other attempts at shoe-horning familiar characters into a generic template, this film has the generic east-European blandness of so many other forgettable urban-fantasy films.  The Manichean mythology is dull, the poor lonely hero is dull, the visuals are dull and there are few surprises along the way to the Big Fight at The End.  Still, I, Frankenstein isn’t a complete dud for a few reasons: The first is Aaron Eckhart, using his square jaw to good effect as the stoic patchwork hero.  The second is writer/director Stuart Beattie, quite a bit better as a director of action sequences than as the screenwriter: While the script is bland, some of the fight sequences are handled with a decent amount of fluidity and lengthy takes.  Bill Nighy does a little bit of scenery-nibbling as the villain, but not enough to become a memorable antagonist.  While the film has thematic ambitions, most of those lose themselves in meaningless nonsense, especially whenever the film tries to claim that its hero is soulless. (What does that even mean?)  The humorlessness of I, Frankenstein doesn’t contribute to any enjoyable campiness, leaving very little as a feature when the film can’t emerge from its downbeat muck.  Too bad for Eckhart (who hasn’t really broken through as a big star despite a few great performances), but too bad for viewers as well, served reheated fantasy leftovers as if they were somehow important.

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